Off The Grid – Independent Hip Hop’s Best Offerings – July Edition

Aug 12 2014


Summer is always kind of like the Christmas of the hip hop world, and this year is no different.

With so much dope music coming out on the daily, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to do our best to keep you guys up to speed on what’s happening, as well as possibly broaden your horizon outside of Strange Music with projects by artists that we personally love and listen to while in the office.

This month’s Off The Grid features projects from Issa Gold, Mickey Factz, Saba, and more!

Without further adieu, let’s go off the grid…

Issa Gold – Conversations With A Butterfly

Issa Conversations

Standout Tracks: “Aquinini”, “Royalist”

In the past few years, the Beast Coast movement has captivated hip hop heads across the country as one of the most promising hip hop movements in recent memory. Garnering constant comparisons to fellow east coast occupants Wu Tang and the Native Tongues collective, the Beast Coast movement offers some hope of a future for lyrical, conscious hip hop in the era of the Shmoney dance.

The Underachievers are a large part of the reason for all the hype surrounding the Beast Coast crew right now and Issa Gold, one half of the group, is definitely doing his part to raise hopes of a bright future for hip hop with his latest solo mixtape Conversations With A Butterfly.

Issa is known for packing wisdom far beyond his years into double-time flows. He’s also known for making incredibly adventurous musical choices (presumably driven by his admitted dislike for hip hop…we know, ironic) and both of those characteristics are present in abundance on this project. Issa, we know you don’t want to be a rapper forever, but please keep it up for just a few years, we’re enjoying it oh so much. (STREAM/DOWNLOAD)

Mickey Factz – 740 Park Avenue

Mickey Factz 740

Standout Tracks: “Detroit Red”, “Just This Last Time” ft. Sam Lao

Let me get this out of the way quickly: Mickey Factz is one of those dudes that is criminally slept on. Not only are his abilities as an emcee on point, his artistic vision is insane and deserves way more appreciation than it gets. End rant.

Mickey first grabbed my attention with his Mickey MauSe project, a concept album centered around a fictional graffiti writer in the 80’s that spent time with people like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Fab Five Freddy, and others. The project was just as amazing as it was ambitious, and cemented Mickey in my mind as someone to watch out for in the future.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when Mickey dropped his latest project 740 Park Avenue, another concept project which introduces a doorman of a ritzy New York housing building and the many characters he’s come into contact with (including his fictional Mickey MauSe characer at one point). Factz’s storytelling abilities are stronger than ever on this project, and his lyrics and sonic choices have kept me coming back to this tape again and again. I’m fairly confident it’ll do the same for you. (STREAM/DOWNLOAD)

Saba – Comfort Zone

Saba Comfort Zone

Standout Tracks: “401K”, “Scum”

Dear lord, Chicago is just teeming with talent right now. In the past few years, the windy city has given us names like Chance The Rapper, Vic Mensa, Alex Wiley, Mick Jenkins, and tons more, but Saba got next.

Sonically, Saba is equal parts Chief Keef, Kendrick Lamar, and Kanye West, but make no mistake, he’s in a lane of his own. Ageless artistic wisdom mixes with the outlook of a young man living in what is ostensibly a war zone on Comfort Zone.

On this project Saba takes chances, but never strays so far as to make the listener feel uncomfortable. Everything is weird in a very familiar way, and I mean that in the most flattering way possible. If this 14-track offering is a sign of things to come from the young Chicago rapper, consider us hyped as shit. (STREAM/DOWNLOAD)

Shabazz Palaces – Lese Majesty

Shabazz Palaces

Standout Tracks: “Harem Aria”,

Ever since Shabazz Palaces was introduced to the hip hop conscious, the group has been shrouded in mystery. Hell, it took months for people to figure out that it was Digable Planets’ Ishmael Butler rapping over those incredibly psychedelic & hazy instrumentals.

While some of the Daft Punk-esque mystery has since faded, the lyrics of Butler AKA Palaceer Lazaro have only expanded on their initial weirdness, and producer/multi-instrumentalist Tendai “Baba” Maraire’s soundscapes have become increasingly and simultaneously challenging and rewarding.

The project is divided into 7 “Suites”, a division method you’re just going to have to figure out yourself. The entirety of Shabazz Palace’s existence seems to be like one of those art-house movies that are confusing and when you ask someone what the message was they say, “It’s whatever you want it to be”, except after listening to Lese Majesty you won’t feel like punching the pretentious asshole that said that to you…You’ll be too busy hitting “replay.” (PURCHASE)

STS – We Can Talk Politics & World Affairs

STS-WhiteGold 07142014

Standout Tracks: “I’ma Wait”, “Why Can’t I Say It”

I’m not gonna front, I forgot about STS for quite some time. It has nothing to do with his skills or the music he’s been putting out, it’s just one of the side effects of being a rap nerd that discovers 10 new things every day.

I first heard STS on Ski Beatz’s 24 Hour Karate School pt. 2, where Sugar Tongue Slim flexed his rap muscles on the track “Moon Walkin'”. After STS dropped his debut project The Illustrious, it was apparent he was someone to watch out for.

Thanks to his recently released We Can Talk Politics & World Affairs, I have been reuinted with the lyrical mastermind that is STS, and I couldn’t be happier. This project is full of the same wit, quick-fire delivery, and passion that marked his previous projects, and in an even more honed vessel. Think B.O.B. with the unbridled hip hop passion of Kendrick Lamar.

A notable highlight of the project comes in the form of “Why Can’t I Say It”, in which STS ponders the ethical nature of Caucasian hip hop fans reciting “nigga” at hip hop shows with a two-sided and incredibly thoughtful musical dialogue. This project is definitely a must hear. (STREAM/PURCHASE)

  • What is your favorite project here?

  • What are some projects we missed?

Get at us with a comment below!